Listening to my readers is a huge part of releasing the book in this serial format. I love hearing about people’s opinions on the progress, characters, and story, and I find the feedback to be very valuable as I move forward.
That being said, this week’s chapter is something of a response to some great feedback that I’ve received dealing with history and lore of the Island of Lyr. I had a section of history in chapter 8 (The Sovern Lodge) that some readers felt was out of place. I agree with this, and have been thinking of ways to introduce some important history without interrupting the flow of the story.
This week’s chapter is something of an experiment. It is an interlude between parts two and three, and is an excerpt from a historic text from the Scholam. I really love the character and format that this takes and feel it could be a nice way to break up the story and inject some good info. As always, I’d love your thoughts. Enjoy!
The River’s Jewel:
A History of Mayfaire
Esteemed Chronicler Arin Lantis Grevelle, Scholam Historic Guild
Begun on this day
The twenty-ninth of Harvest, in the year 237, the Age of Hope
Part One: A Brief Introduction
Throughout the years the Scholam has produced countless histories of the early years of our great island kingdom. One need look no further than Hemmel’s extraordinary Books of Lyr or the Histories of the First Years by Mellis Hinton III to learn of the early events that shaped the foundational cities of the east. Hinton’s beautifully livid account of the Exile Fleet’s first sighting of the island is enough to warrant the navigation of her inspired, if occasionally overwrought, tome.
These books, and the dozens of similar ilk, do a more than adequate job of detailing our young kingdom and, as such, I feel there is scarce little to the study that I may contribute. I say this as argument against the dictate of Master Scholar Forstin who has tasked me with yet another volume about the formation of Avan Lyr, though he has specified that my work is to concentrate solely on the history of the sewage system, which I find to be wholly unnecessary. Furthermore, I believe his intentions to be coming not from a place of true intellectual interest, but from the harboring of ill feelings he holds needlessly against me. It should be noted that I have apologized profusely for my behaviors towards the honorable Missus Forstin. My comparison of her to an ox in my latest tritise was meant only as a compliment to her fortitude and strength of character. How it came to be associated with her bullish appearance I have no idea. I have said this repeatedly, but my words seem to fall on deaf ears.
It is for these reasons that I have abandoned Master Forstin’s assignment in favor of an assignment of my own. I intend to fill these pages with the history of the city of Mayfaire, the River’s Jewel, and my beloved home. Though self-appointed, it is a task that I do not take lightly. It is my belief that the history of this grand city mirrors that of our entire island kingdom and that it is no less significant than the founding of Avan Lyr or the establishment of the Western Capital. I hope that the exceptional quality of this text will please the Counsel and prove to Master Fortis that I am meant for greater things than the writing of fecal histories. In these pages I aim to regale with the most concrete of facts and shall avoid any similes upon which readers of sensitive character could take umbrage, especially those of slow wit and simple appearance.
Furthermore, it is my belief that more elaborate histories of the great cities tend to be written upon the eve of their downfall and I wish to refute that trend. When a city’s greatest moments are behind it, historians scramble to record books of glory as ways of convincing themselves, or the population, that places of magnificence do not falter, they only rise. This can certainly be said about Artine’s History of the City of Hope which declared its subject to be the heart of civilization only twenty years before the city’s population plummeted, preferring instead the more promising lands of Avan Lyr. Common also is the trend to write histories with a tinge of nostalgia for more glorious times if the current day is lacking for inspiration. I can say with confidence that neither of these scenarios applies to my own volume, or to the city of Mayfaire. The River’s Jewel has never shone brighter, and has no signs of losing its hard-earned luster. It is quite the contrary in fact, since all evidence points to greater and greater days ahead.
Presently, I am sitting in my study on the eve of a great day. I can hear the sounds of celebration, even as I write these words, echoing through the streets and finding their way through my windows. The city is celebrating a momentous event, for tomorrow is the dedication of the Colosseum of Avar, the grandest construction that has ever graced these grounds and truly one of the wonders of the Island of Lyr. I have seen the cascading Falls of Raban, as well as the musical gardens of Lainn and the furnace trains of Aurton, and I can say with certainty that our Colosseum stands among, if not far, far above them all. I can also say that it is deserving of the name Avar, and if that great hero of legend was to see the works that our humble hands have dedicated to him he would weep as I have wept at the building’s magnificence.
Words simply cannot express my joy at being present on the eve of such an event. There can be no greater honor for a student and contributor of history than to be witness as history itself is unfolding. We chroniclers have dedicated our lives to the past, and often to the deeds of the dead, so it is a rare treat to see the glories of the current age as they are occuring.
It behooves me to take a moment to address my accused predisposition to cast Mayfaire in a glorious light. My critics are often quick to point out what they perceive to be a fawning over this particular city in my writings, but their scorn is misplaced. As an historian of merit it is my duty to provide an objective view of my subjects and leave my own personal opinions far from my texts. I therefore feel it necessary to acknowledge my family’s contributions to the city and make clear that they are in no way an influence on my opinions. I will ignore the fact that my noble family helped to pull Mayfaire from its early fragile days as a western outpost. It would be unprofessional to even mention that this city would not exist at all if not for the generosity of House Grevelle, so I shan’t do it. And I will certainly not speak of House Grevelle’s role in creating the eastern trade routes, a role that continues to thrive to this very day. My voice shall be a voice of truth and objective honesty for Mayfaire and its people. Why would there be need to embellish the history of a city so grand?
It is an unfortunate aspect of history that the vital early years of a city are oftentimes shrouded in the fog of time. Mayfaire is no different. The foundations of this city were built in times of great strife, and in a less cultivated age. It would seem, reasonably enough, that the earliest settlers of our city were preoccupied firstly with survival and had no thought of setting down the events of their days in ink. Why they could not find the time to do so has always been a source of frustration for me. It is a tragic inconvenience.
What we can gather, through the meager evidence that remains, is that the outpost that was to become Mayfaire once stood where the district of West Reach is seated today. It would be difficult to imagine when one is strolling through the pristine campus of the Temple Scholam, or the historic, and lavishly painted, residences of the Reaches that the districts were once the site of life and death struggles of our forebears. It is a fact, however, that if one casts their glance downward at the corner of Weyland Street at Croston they will see a peculiar line of thick stones incorporated into the very street on which they stand. These rough hewn stones mark the foundation of the first founding wall of Mayfaire, a remarkable, and often overlooked, trace of the first settlement.
Walls have always been an essential part of a settlement on our island. Whether or not this has been the case for all of human civilization is anyone’s guess. The first settlers to our island made it their business to eradicate the knowledge of where they came from and, save for a few precious records at the High Library of Avan Lyr, how they got here. It is a tragedy that all island historians are well used to. We trade in knowledge and facts of the bygone eras and yet we face a void of all knowledge when it comes to the years that would truly cast light on who we are and where we came from. It is an unfortunate mystery of our lives that we begrudgingly accept. The lives of our ancestors and the lands they came from may reveal themselves to a talented historian someday, but of these facts I (and the entire Scholam) remain ignorant.
The truths that I do know about settling and civilization are bound to our great island, and they all settle on an unmistakable fact on the frontier: walls are life. It was a common sentiment shared by all the great leaders and summed up perfectly in Verilly’s History of the Western Expansion:
There were, of course, settlements into the western woods that began without fortifications of any kind. Their names are all lost to us, however, as none lasted beyond a fortnight.
The passage, while undeniably exaggerated, is clear on one fact of early settlement: start with your wall.
When the Exile Fleet first came to the shores of this fair island they found themselves in a paradise. A new world, one seemingly untouched by mankind, was before them. Rich in resources, and set about in a temperate climate where crops could be cultivated in long growing seasons and warm spring rains. It wasn’t until they worked their way inland that they realized they shared their new home with a frightening indigenous race.
The wars with the monstrous Clans of the island have been well recorded by others and there is nothing that I here can add to their histories. I will say that Mayfaire suffered in the familiar way that all expansions of our borders suffered, and the assaults from the Clans were violent in a way that we living today can hardly fathom. Excavations in and around West Reach have provided us with all manner of artifacts from the earliest days of the settlement, and judging by the sheer number of bones of both races, they were bloody and brutal.
The first true record of the the city comes to us from the hand of Artin Vale, an early merchant and scholar who was aligned with House Delando. It is appropriate that the earliest documentation of the settlement was laid down by a merchant’s son, and I do not shy away from the irony that another merchant’s son is recounting it. Artin Vale, whose family name still adorns many of the spice boxes from the Windlands, tells us of the fifth year of the city, and how the lanes had been roughly established to connect Mayfaire to the southern plateau. It was with this connection, and the resources now flowing in from Selvid and the plateau, that laid the first seeds of Mayaire’s fate.
Salt, though it is now so common as to be found on most supper tables, was once a rare and vital resource to the capital city. The art of extracting it from sea water was brought to the island by the first settlers, but it proved to be a skill of no use since the gathering of sea water was just as treacherous as our ancestors first ill-fated fishing expeditions. It is a tragedy that we have simply accepted that an island-living people have little ability to gather the bounties of the waters that surround them. Attempts were made by the early settlers, but given Vale’s accounts of the fouls things netted in the coastal waters it is no wonder we avoid it. It is, in fact, a remarkable thing that the Exile Fleet managed to navigate the waters to the island at all since the leviathans surrounding Lyr have made ocean travel impossible for the entirety of our known history.
The shallow bays at Hope and Insmos allowed for some extraction of salt from the brackish water, but it was labor intensive and yielded little, so you can imagine the excitement when an expedition party discovered ancient salt mines on the Southern Plateau! Of the original excavators of that land we have very little information, but it seems that they were eradicated outright by the loathsome Clans hundreds of years before the Exile Fleet landed. Few of their structures exist, and among them were the ruins that would eventually form the foundations of the salt-mining city of Selvid. A route was established to connect the salt mines to Avan Lyr, but it was quite treacherous. Vale writes:
Of the importance of salt there can be no question, but the value it brings and the costs it accrued were unmatched, and despite the sacrifices of our bravest, trade with the valuable Southern Plateau remained elusive. The route began simply enough, but as the hills steepened, and the soil gave to slick rock, the way became nearly impassable, even for the most hardened of journeymen. With no viable way to ferry pack animals the only resources that made their way to the city were brought on the backs of the survivors, and they were far too few.
It is no wonder then that Mayfaire grew as fast and as it did. It provided the island with not only a simple route to the precious salt mines of Selvid, but also a fast and safe way to transport them to Avan Lyr: on the currents of the Great River.
Any history of Mayfaire would be incomplete without the inclusion of the Great River and its importance to the life of the city. The fast-flowing currents not only allow us to send resources to the capital city with ease, they also turn the great water wheels of the city and fill our fountains, baths, sinks, and (perhaps most importantly to any civilized place) our running sewers. The infrequent floods that bedeviled the early settlements are a small price to pay for the numerous gifts our river gives us, and besides, with the construction of the Drains, they have been completely under our control.
One interesting characteristic of our river trade route was that it was unidirectional; the strength of the river’s current only allows goods to flow to the east. Upriver travel was, of course, attempted, but the manpower required outmatched the benefits. Especially since the road connecting the two cities was quickly becoming so well traveled as to be almost pleasant. Outposts and watchtowers were established to keep the marauding Clans under control, and the journey itself could be taken in under a week at a leisurely pace. The journey was just beginning to be taken simply for pleasure alone, a fact that the early settlers would scarce have believed! I myself have had the opportunity to take the road many times and can attest to its beauty and grandeur. From the sweeping grasslands surrounding Avan Lyr, to the dense and wild Midland Forest, it is a true delight. Lush greenery as far as the eye can see met by a sky as blue as the gems mined in Aurton. It helps, no doubt, that since the Clan Migration the lands themselves are safe and practically free of danger, but the early travelers made the trip in spite of those old threats.
With the establishment of the early trade routes, Mayfaire became a vital settlement to the island. It also sat as the furthest settlement in the West and, as such, became the natural seat for the expeditions that would establish the cities of Hardûn, Lainn, and the far western settlement of Levitia, which, as we all know, would later be known as Raban Lyr, the City on the Falls, and the great Western Capital of Lyr. The success of these expeditions further established Mayfaire’s role as a center of trade and it grew quickly from a humble frontier outpost into a thriving, wealthy city.
The initial leadership of Mayfaire was formed by appointees from the noble houses of Avan Lyr. These houses, though respected in the capital city, found themselves losing power to the lords of the early merchant houses. Several rose quickly in power: House Acton, who claimed control of the expedition roads and the valuable western fur trade, House Vireo who controlled the salt routes to the southern plateau (though they would later move the seat of their power to the mining city of Selvid), and my own house, House Grevelle, who controlled the Stonewood trade in the north. Much can be said about the relationships between these great families and the politics of power in Mayfaire, and not all of it is kind. I have my opinions about the ruthlessness of the vile House Acton, but I respectfully withdraw myself from political discussion in this book. This will either please or enrage my readers, depending on their predilections, but I find the topic dull and tiring. Suffice it to say the Barons of the great houses did not get along, and after forming their own militias something akin to civil war was descending on the fledgling city. Violence may have erupted in earnest if not for the intervention of a man named Avar Aurel, who would go on to form the City Guard. He would also, in a selfless act of humanity during such corrupt times, go to great lengths to keep the organization neutral.
The City Guard of Mayfaire is, in my humble opinion, a greater wonder than even the soon-to-be-dedicated Colosseum at our city’s heart, and more than deserving of a quick mention in these introductory pages. They have defied the corruption that is so rampant in many armed forces and have a training and renown second to none. There are those who claim that the vanguard of General Cor Tennal are the greatest fighting force on Lyr, but I believe that to be a gross exaggeration of their martial acuity. While powerful, they are a field army, burdened with armor and placed in ordered ranks. The City Guard of Mayfaire fight with an independence and intelligence that allows them to be flexible in both assault and defense, and they have proven themselves time and again as keepers of true peace. Mayfaire, I believe, would simply not have survived without them. They are glorious and I place that glory firmly on the noble lineage of their leadership. Few institutions are allowed to be led by successive generations on our island, the practice tends to lead to ineffective leaders at best, and downright cruelty at worst, but the passing of leadership to successive generations of the Aurel family has kept the City Guard a force to be reckoned with. I will let others speculate as to the nature of the bloodline, but I believe them to be of truly special descent.
So far I have made no mention of the religious practices of Mayfaire. The simple reason for this is that faith has never played a part in the formation or leadership of our people, much like the rest of the island. I have heard of superstitious generals who take the auspices before battle, and there are, of course, the strange beliefs of the Sacris cult who seem to be growing in alarming number in the east, but these men and women are the exception in our society. Many believe that Lady Lyr herself, that greatest of all leaders who navigated the Exile Fleet from its dark past and saved our civilization, pushed her people to forsake the practices of worship altogether. Perhaps in that rumored knowledge we can discern a hint of what the first settlers were fleeing from in their unknown homelands, though we shall never know exactly.
There is more, so much more, about Mayfaire that needs to be recorded, and in these pages I will go into detail of each and every event that has played a role in our history. It is my hope that this humble introduction will provide a foundation of the city upon which I can lay the blocks of its great story. I am excited to continue, but for now the revery in the streets is calling my name, and I would be foolish to ignore it. The dedication of our glorious Colosseum is nigh, and tonight we celebrate not only its completion, but the cumulative wonder that is our beloved Mayfaire. I simply cannot wait to be among the celebrations.